Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Amazing Gov. Blagojevich: More on the Burris Appointment

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis turned Blagojevich senate appointment down. Photo credits: AP

Writing for the New York Times, Monica Davey and Sharon Otterman report the behind the scenes story on Illinois Gov. Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris to fill Obama’s vacant senate seat:

“CHICAGO — A day after Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois appointed Roland W. Burris to fill President-elect Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, new details emerged about how the governor worked behind closed doors to make the appointment, and the United States attorney prosecuting Mr. Blagojevich on corruption charges sought a 90-day extension to bring an indictment against him.

‘“At a Tuesday news conference here, Mr. Blagojevich breezily introduced Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, as the ‘next United States senator from Illinois.’ But United States Representative Danny Davis, who like Mr. Burris is a longtime fixture of the Illinois Democratic Party and an African-American, said he was offered the seat in a meeting with an emissary of the governor last Wednesday, and turned it down on Friday.”’

Read more.

NY Dems Tout Bill Clinton (among others) as Caretaker Senator for New York

They just can’t help it. Bill and Hillary Clinton keep seizing the headlines. Yesterday, Hillary was voted the “most admired woman” in America, and Bill came in second after Obama among Democrats as the “most admired man.”

Today, Hill and Bill are headlining the New Year’s celebration in Times Square. And about 46 minutes ago, the AP’s Michael Gormley suggested that we not rule out Bill Clinton as a possible caretaker for Hillary’s soon to be vacated New York senate seat.

Filling Hillary’s seat with a caretaker, Gormley points out, would free Gov. Paterson from the Caroline Kennedy trap.

Gormley writes:

‘“The former president is among several boldface names being touted as possible ‘caretakers’ for New York's Senate seat — people who would serve until the 2010 elections but wouldn't be interested in running to keep the job. As the process of picking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's replacement gets messier, the option may become increasingly attractive to Gov. David Paterson, who has sole authority to name a successor.

“A big name like Bill Clinton or Democratic former Gov. Mario Cuomo could have an immediate impact for New York in the Senate while letting the large field of hopefuls duke it out in 2010, according to three Democratic Party advisers in New York and Washington who are close to the discussion with Paterson's inner circle on this issue.

“Two others in the party confirmed that Paterson is still considering the caretaker option. The advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to comment.

‘“You could find a very senior person who could serve New York well’’ on an interim basis, said Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist and dean at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Then you can say to Caroline Kennedy, `You know, you'd make a good senator. Run for it.' And you can tell everyone else that it's a level playing field.”

“Paterson has made it clear in recent days that he's getting annoyed by the constant jockeying by supporters of high-powered hopefuls including Kennedy, half a dozen members of Congress and state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of the former governor.”

Read more.

Bill and Hill to Help Lower the Ball in Times Square Tonight

Bill and Hill

At Politicio’s Shenanigans, an obviously uninspired Amie Parnes reports that Bill and Hill will be celebrating with New Yorkers in Time Square this New Year’s eve. In response to Parnes, an astute reader comments on the anti-Clinton behavior of “the radical right and the looney left.”

Parnes writes:

Hillary (and Bill) Clinton had quite a year: A presidential campaign that produced 18 million votes, a Secretary of State nomination... yada yada.

Now the duo will help kick off 2009 by helping to lower the 12,000-pound Waterford crystal ball in Times Square tonight. Also joining the Clintons: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Up to a million revelers--as well as snow and an icy wind-- are expected in Times Square tonight.

Sounds nice and all. But here at Shenan, we'll be watching the ball drop someplace warm and cozy.

And here's the astute reader's comment:

“Without the Clintons -we would all be bored to tears. Hillary is a brilliant , serious woman with a profound command of policy and deep concern for everyday people. Discrediting and demonizing her and her husband is an obsessive blood sport of the radical right and now the looney left. Facts be damned - For those with the good sense to understand greatness without the media dog barking all the time, AS does Obama - they remain critcal to America's future”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hillary is America’s “Most Admired Woman” for the Seventh Consecutive Year

Hillary Clinton greets supporters in Ohio during the primary.

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, Hillary Clinton is No. 1 on the list of “Most Admired Women,” a spot the New York Senator and next secretary of state has held for 13 of the past 16 years. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin came in second.

Gallup’s Lydia Saad reports:

“Clinton is the first choice for Most Admired Women among Democrats and Independents. Palin is the first choice among Republicans and the second choice among independents.”

Saad continues:

“This is the seventh consecutive year that Hillary Clinton has secured top billing as Americans' Most Admired Woman -- and the 13th year she has made the top ten since her first appearance on the list in 1993. The 20% naming Clinton this year is comparable to what she received in 2007 (18%), but falls short of the 28% naming her in 1998.”

President-elect Barack Obama topped the list of "Most Admired Men." Second on the list was President George W. Bush.

Saad noted:

“Democrats overwhelming name Barack Obama as the man they most admire, with Bill Clinton ranking second. Obama also ranks first among independents, although not with nearly as many mentions as among Democrats. Among Republicans, George W. Bush ranks first, named by 15%, followed closely by John McCain, with 9%.”

Huffington Post Blogger Compares Rick Warren to Hillary Clinton

The other day, Huffington Post blogger David Quigg posted his thoughts on Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. He titled his opinion-piece What Would Obama Do If Obama Was Mad At Obama About Rick Warren?

To buttress his argument, Quigg suggests that Warren’s slurs against gays are equivalent to Hillary Clinton’s criticisms of Obama during the Democratic primary:

“There are sensible people who look at Warren and see a man who belittled their marriages, lied about the perils California faced if it didn't pass Proposition 8, and -- in helping get gay marriage repealed -- thwarted their deepest aspirations for equality. Imagine that there was someone who'd belittled Obama, lied about him, and tried to thwart his most high-stakes aspirations. Would Obama invite that person to lead a prayer at the inauguration? The answer is no. Absolutely not. Because the Secretary of State doesn't lead inaugural prayers.”

Of course, Quigg fails to mention that throughout the Democratic primary, the Obama team used every despicable, underhanded weapon in its arsenal to smear both Hillary and Bill Clinton as racists even though the Clintons’ record on human rights throughout their years in public service has been impeccable.

If you go to YouTube and watch videos of the debates in the primary, you’ll notice that Obama questioned Hillary Clinton’s integrity at every opportunity.

And let me say it for the 100th time: Obama's national co-chair Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s sexist tirade against Clinton the day after her New Hampshire win remains one of the most egregious attacks on another candidate in modern history.

In yet another illogical attempt to defend Obama’s selection of Warren to pray at his inauguration, Quigg pulls a quote from The Audacity of Hope, "Megachurch pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influence to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur."

So because Saddleback Church supports several worthy causes, Pastor Warren should not be accountable for his attacks on gays, Jews, and those who support reproductive rights for women?

This is the flawed reasoning writ large of the battered woman who stays with her abusive spouse because he occasionally does something nice for her.

It bears repeating: the Rick Warren controversy demonstrates that in the age of Obama, bigotry is acceptable against every group in our culture accept straight African-American males.

Monday, December 29, 2008

When the System Failed: A Holiday Weekend Without Phone Service or Internet

Hello, Katalusis readers!

I’m sorry I haven’t posted lately. On Thursday, December 25 at about noon my bundled landline telephone service and Internet connection failed, leaving me totally dependent on my cell until Sunday evening, Dec. 28.

The fact that I live on the fourth floor of a security building was an added inconvenience. My landline phone is programmed so that I can press a single key and instantly admit a guest; otherwise, I have to take the elevator downstairs to the lobby and manually open the door.

Although I didn’t notice any grammatical errors in my increasingly frustrated phone calls to the cable company, I could readily empathize with Professor Stanley Fish’s recent frustrations with AT&T, which he posted this morning at his blog Think Again (NY Times).

Professor Fish mentioned the first obstacle he encountered was getting through to a live person. That situation is even more depressing when you’re sitting there on hold wasting precious cell phone minutes while a syrupy recorded voice periodically interrupts promotional material to say, “Thank you for holding. Your call is important to us.” Eventually, I spoke to a live “account executive,” and scheduled an appointment for Sunday afternoon between 1 and 5 p.m.

My dinner guests arrived shortly before the system failed completely, and I was able to buzz them in. We had a happy Christmas/Chanukkah celebration. After dinner we watched Joyeux Noel, a 2005 film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of the French.

On Friday morning I called the cable company back to see if I could get an earlier appointment. I received a promise that if anything opened up, I’d be first in line.

On Sunday at around 4:30 p.m., I was re-reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on anger and carefully following his instructions on how to mindfully treat powerful emotions that are threatening to get out of control.

My cell’s cheerful ring tone interrupted my practice and in a calm, relaxed state of mind, I took the elevator downstairs to admit a bright-eyed, youthful technician who proved to be both courteous and competent. He had the problem solved within minutes.

After he left, I reflected on the post-holiday weekend and realized I’d gotten along fine without my usual political fixes from favorite news sites and blogs and thanks to my ever ready cell phone, I hadn’t actually been cut off from the world.

Just the same, dear friends, it’s good to be back.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rick Warren Accuses Critics of “Christophobia”

Another must-read and must-see video with Rachel Maddow on the Rick Warren controversy: Rick Warren Doubles Down, Accuses Critics Of "Christophobia"

Rick Warren’s Disagreeable Positions on Same Sex Marriage, Judaism, and the Reproductive Rights of Women

I thought I’d never see the day when Huffington Post writer Bob Cesca would actually criticize the One, but get a load of this:

“This is about fighting back in the age of Obama.

‘“The maxim that's been most often tossed around this week to explain the Warren invitation has been: ‘We can disagree without being disagreeable.’ Some supporters of the president-elect's choice of invocation speaker have grappled onto this idea in the spirit of the Obama change message and used it as a blanket explanation for why we should embrace Rick Warren -- even though his more controversial remarks, by the way, are nothing if not ‘disagreeable.’

‘“It's important to underscore that this maxim, while repeated in the spirit of unity, also contains the word ‘disagree.’

““And it goes without saying that many of us vigorously disagree with Rick Warren's comments on same-sex marriage and abortion, not to mention his vocal condemnation to hell anyone who doesn't abandon their Judaism. But for whatever reason, we're expected to just go along with this one as if Warren were just another random pastor. We're expected to just suck it up and take it even though some of his public statements have denigrated millions of Americans. We're told by very serious people to grow up. You know, in the spirit of not being ‘disagreeable.’”

Read more:

The Message of Christmas: Reward and Punishment or Unconditional Love?

Photo credits: Virginia Bergman

It’s a cold snowy Christmas Eve here in St. Paul, and I’m glad my Christmas shopping and other errands are done. Today I can mindfully enjoy wrapping a few gifts, sprucing up my cozy apartment a little, and doing some food preparation in anticipation of family dinner guests tomorrow. In keeping with the holiday spirit I’m reposting below a presentation I gave at my local Unitarian-Universalist church fellowship the Sunday before last Christmas.

"Yes, Virginia..."

Maybe it’s because my name is Virginia that I’m so easily hooked by the Disney channel’s Christmas shows featuring Santa as the main character. I watched such a show just the other night titled “The Ultimate Christmas Gift.”

In case you didn’t see the movie, Santa’s idea of the ultimate Christmas gift was a timely gentle snowfall. He’d invented a machine that could control the weather and produce the white stuff on demand. The machine wound up in the hands of a naughty little girl in L.A., and you can guess the rest.

By the time the movie ended, we’d all been reminded that Santa rewards only well-behaved children and as the song suggests:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!

Something peculiar happened to me, though, as I sat there glued to my TV set. I was noticing for perhaps the first time the traditional God-like attributes that folklore assigns to the jolly old elf in the red suit. For one thing he’s supposedly all knowing or omniscient; and we’re told that on Christmas Eve he’s also omnipresent, capable of visiting every household in the world. That’s with a little help from a hard-working team of reindeer; a species rightly honored last Sunday by our good friend, Jaime Meyer.

But what really struck me in the movie was the notion of reward and punishment. If you’re good, Santa will bring you presents and if you’re naughty, you’ll likely receive a lump of coal in your stocking.

It’s the same old reward and punishment approach we all experienced in early childhood, throughout our school years, and most definitely in the workplace.

In his theories of behavior modification, psychologist B. F. Skinner even taught that human beings are entirely motivated by the feedback we get from others; so much for high-minded concepts such as spirituality, conscience, internalized values, autonomy, self-direction, and all that.

I once took a class in undergraduate school on behavior modification taught according to the principles of that psychological theory. I was so offended by what I perceived as the professor’s obvious attempts to manipulate me that as quickly as I could, I did the work required to earn a grade of C and left.

As UUs, you’ve probably noticed that traditional Christianity has long incorporated the carrots and sticks approach in much of its theology. Be good, and you’ll go to heaven. Keep up that sinning, and you’ll be damned eternally to hellfire.

Just like Santa Claus, it might also be said of the patriarchal God of traditional Christianity:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!

There is, however, a deeper meaning in the life story of the one who was born in Bethlehem and his teachings about our relationship to God. Forrest Church, pastor of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in NYC, offers this version of the Christmas story:

“The third year of the Common Era was marked in Judea by a great tax (a war tax if you will) imposed by Rome and shouldered unequally, as taxes were then and certainly are today. At pain of death, the nation's poor had to travel for days sometimes to be enrolled in their hometowns and then pay a staggering assessment of 80%— 2 shekels for you, eight for Caesar.

“Among the itinerant poor, a man by the name of Joseph—who surely had enough troubles of his own already—was touched by the liberal spirit (the spirit of generosity, tolerance, and brotherly love) to take under his wing an unwed pregnant teenager by the name of Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem to pay the freight for a Roman war that had nothing to do with their safety or well being, this alternative family sought shelter in an inn, but all the inns were full. When the inns of the world are full, the poor find shelter where they can, in a stable yard, say, on a bed of straw among the pigs and cattle. Forget every crèche you've ever seen; this was not a pretty picture, nothing Hallmark or even Fox News would want to see on the cover of a card.

“But then, behold, a child is born—in society's eyes a bastard child, whom generous hearted Joseph and poor bewildered Mary wrap in swaddling clothes and lay in a manger.

“Like every great story,” the Rev. Dr. Church tells us, “the Christmas story has a twist. This unwed, socially ostracized family, their widow's mite purloined by an uncaring government to underwrite the empire's military adventures and its leaders' lavish lifestyles, in short, the poorest of the poor do what? That's right. They give birth to the Son of God!”

Stripped of all the special effects of an immaculate conception, visitations from angels, and tributes from three kings of the east led to the stable by an unnaturally bright star, the story of Jesus’ birth, whether myth or fact, becomes even more powerful and moving: an all-powerful God decides to take on human form and chooses to arrive, not as an heir to an earthly throne, but as an illegitimate child born in a stable.

To my mind, it’s a miracle that human beings were even capable of envisioning such an event.

Jesus is said to have lived only thirty years or so but during his brief life and ministry, scripture reveals that he presented a stunningly radical model of God:

The God of Jesus was inclusive. Defying social norms of his day, Jesus treated women as equals, speaking to them in public and teaching them scripture.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a member of a hated group of people, Jesus expanded on the definition of neighbor.

He practiced non-violence, advising his followers to turn the other cheek. We know that he led by invitation, not by coercion.

Embodying Mary’s words in the Magnificat that we heard earlier this morning, the man from Galilee cared especially for the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed.

A social activist of the first order, Jesus essentially taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves – presumably that would include the undocumented immigrants among us.

If you recall the principles of process theology, you’ll recognize that Alfred North Whitehead’s seemingly sophisticated notions about God are derived primarily from the example of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels.

How does all this theological stuff blend with the influence of Santa Claus in today’s culture? It’s hard to say. As you might have guessed I had to deal with the issue when my own two children were young.

It was shortly after Christmas when Jean and Steve approached me in the kitchen and told me they had a question. The serious tone in their voices caused me to leave the dishes in the sink, dry my hands, and sit down.

Jean said, “Ok, Mom, we want the truth. Is there or isn’t there a Santa Claus?”

Here’s the deal: Throughout my life, people had been assuring me, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But on this occasion, I felt I had no choice but to tell my children the truth.

Each year, I explained, Dad and I had shopped for their gifts, wrapped them and hid them away. “Do you remember all of those packages Dad would bring into the house? You’d want to know what was in them. He’d tell you they were parts for his car and then put them up on the highest shelf in the closet.

“On Christmas Eve, after you were both fast asleep, we would put up the tree, trim it, and place your presents beneath it to surprise you on Christmas morning.”

I had no idea how my children would respond that day as I explained the well-kept secret of Christmas to them and anxiously watched their eyes widen in disbelief. As usual, it was Jean, the older of the two, who spoke first. She blurted out, “You mean you and Dad did all of that for us?”

They looked at each other and then at me, not in disillusionment, but in glad surprise. The mystery solved, they ran off to play, as children will. Theirs was the glad surprise of knowing how deeply and unconditionally they were loved.

Whatever you learned or didn’t learn in Sunday School, according to the teachings of Jesus - later adopted by process theology - that’s how God loves each and everyone of us.

May it be so.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Greetings from Hillary

Note to Katalusis Readers: I received this holiday greeting from Hillary today in my inbox. If you'd like to send a greeting to Hillary, click here.

Dear Virginia,

I couldn't let this holiday season pass by without taking the time to thank you for all the wonderful support you've given me. I've received so many kind messages in the last few weeks, and I can't tell you how much your friendship means to me.

As I celebrate the holidays with my family, I'll be thinking about all our wonderful memories from the past year. I hope you'll take the time to remember all the things we accomplished together and all the lives we touched.

I know that I am forever changed because of the journey you and I shared. It goes without saying that we have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Even in the midst of great challenges here at home and around the world, we know change is coming and there is reason to have hope for a brighter future.

Thank you so much for everything, and I hope you have a very happy holiday season!



On the Rick Warren Issue: “Obama’s inability or unwillingness to be a moral leader”

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen offers a poignant explanation in today’s op-ed why his gay sister is unhappy with President-elect Obama’s decision to invite Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation.

Cohen writes:

“She {Cohen’s sister} is -- or was -- a committed Obama supporter. On the weekend before the presidential election, my sister and my mother drove from the Boston area, where they both live, to Obama's New Hampshire headquarters in Manchester. There my mother made 76 phone calls for Obama, which is not bad for someone who is 96, and gives you an idea of the level of commitment to Obama in certain precincts of my family.

“I should say right off that my mother feels less strongly about Warren than my sister does. But I should add immediately that my sister feels very strongly, indeed. She's been in a relationship with another woman, the quite wonderful Nancy, for 19 years, and she resents the fact that Warren has likened same-sex marriage to incest, pederasty and polygamy.

‘“I'm opposed to redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage,’ Warren told's Steve Waldman. ‘I'm opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.’

‘“Waldman asked, ‘Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?’

‘“Oh, I do,’ said Warren.

‘“There you have the thinking of the man Obama has chosen above all other religious figures to represent him in this most solemn moment. He likens my sister's relationship -- three children, five grandchildren, so loving as to be envied and so conventional as to be boring -- to incest or polygamy.”’

Cohen gets to the heart of the matter here:

“The conventional thing to say is that Obama has a preacher problem -- first the volcanic Jeremiah Wright and now the transparently anti-gay Warren. But the real problem has nothing to do with ministers and everything to do with Obama's inability or unwillingness to be a moral leader. Sooner or later, he just might have to stand for something.”

Read more.

Defense Secretary Gates and National Security Adviser Gen. Jones, Jr. Back Clinton’s Efforts to Strengthen the State Department

Photo credits: Susan Walsh/AP

Headlined Clinton Moves to Widen Role of State Dept., the lead paragraph of a report in today’s New York Times on Hillary Clinton's steps to strengthen the State Department is guaranteed to fan the flames of controversy and incite outrage from the usual crowd of pathological Hillary haters.

Mark Landler and Helene Cooper write:

“WASHINGTON — Even before taking office, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis.”

Buried in the article is word from an anonymous official that Mrs. Clinton was being supported in her push for more resources by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Obama’s incoming national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones Jr.

‘“For years, some Pentagon officials have complained that jobs like the economic reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq have been added to the military’s burden when they could have been handled by a robust Foreign Service.

‘“The Pentagon would like to turn functionality over to civilian resources, but the resources are not there,’ the official said. ‘We’re looking to have a State Department that has what it needs.”’

The article continues:

“Mrs. Clinton’s push for a more vigorous economic team, one of her advisers said, stems from her conviction that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis. Economic issues also underpin some of the most important diplomatic relationships, notably with China.”

A careful reading of this article would lead a rational person to conclude that Clinton is wisely positioning the State Department to make the best possible use of diplomatic tools and resources to help resolve several global crises expected to worsen in the days ahead.

Sadly, a quick glance at the readers’ comments in the Times indicates the irrational Hillary haters are already out in force.

Monday, December 22, 2008

MediaMatters.Org on Bob Schieffer’s Attempt to Smear Hillary Clinton

CBS’ Bob Schieffer was one of those pundits I respected prior to the 2008 Democratic primary. Like PBS' Mark Shields - the supposed liberal of Shields and Brooks - Scheiffer could not conceal a chauvinistic sneer whenever he was forced to mention Hillary Clinton’s name on the air.

Evidently, Schieffer hasn’t gotten over the fact that despite the misogyny demonstrated by him and his media colleagues, 18 million Americans voted for Clinton in the primary, and she’s since been named secretary of state in the Obama Administration.

Media Matters for America caught Schieffer in the act last Sunday in yet another attempt to smear Clinton.

Here’s the summary from MediaMatters.Org:

‘“CBS' Bob Schieffer baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton may ‘try to block’ Caroline Kennedy's possible appointment to replace her as U.S. senator from New York, adding that there is ‘[n]o love lost with the Kennedy family after they endorsed [President-elect Barack] Obama early on.’ But Clinton has reportedly ‘told her supporters not to involve her in their efforts to stop Caroline Kennedy's path to the U.S. Senate’ and that their comments critical of Kennedy ‘weren't appreciated.”’

Watch the video of Schieffer’s commentary here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren’s Paternalistic Love for Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, Gays, and Straights Doesn’t Compensate for His Homophobia

Attempting to educate bigots who are oblivious to their bigotry is becoming tiresome. Christina Hoag’s (AP) report of Rick Warren’s address at the 8th Annual Convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach, California on Saturday provides ample evidence the evangelical pastor would require many intense consciousness-raising sessions to overcome his homophobia and other irrational biases.

For starters, Warren apparently believes his loud paternalistic declarations of love toward Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, gays, and straights somehow compensates for his refusal to support equal rights for the GLBT community.

Hoag notes in her article:

“Although Warren has said that he has nothing personal against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

‘“I {Warren} have many gay friends. I've eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,’ he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet. But later in the interview, he compared the ‘redefinition of marriage’ to include gay marriage to legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy.”’

Underlying the controversy over Warren’s invitation to give the inaugural invocation is a popular misunderstanding that the evil of bigotry varies depending on who the victims are. Extrapolating from the Obama team’s responses to human rights violations, on a scale of 1 to 10 the importance of any suggestion of bigotry targeting a straight Christian African-American male ranks as a 10; whereas, easily trivialized bigotry targeting women or gays of any race or religion ranks between a 0 and 1.

The popular use of the above scale explains why hanging Sarah Palin in effigy during the general election was not considered a hate crime, although hanging Barack Obama in effigy resulted in the immediate apprehension of the college students responsible for the act.

America’s promise of Liberty and justice for all must include citizens of every race, gender, religion, age, sexual preference, and ethnic origin. When President-elect Obama opens his eyes and provides the leadership in human rights our world so sorely needs, other domestic and foreign policy concerns will fall rapidly into place.

Let me repeat: respect for human rights is the one and only key to global peace and prosperity and by the way, Rev. Warren, Jesus would probably agree.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Time Magazine on Sarah Palin: “a one-woman rescue team for the Republican ticket”

Ya gotta love Andrew Malcolm’s wry post at the Top of the Ticket (LA Times) on the saga of Sarah Palin: From running mate to Time’s runner-up.

See if you can read this passage without a chuckle:

“Her selection by the old Arizona guy annoyed the nation's news media because they weren't ready and they think Washington is a qualifying experience for the White House now that Bill Clinton and the new guy have some.

“So reporters wrote a lot about Palin's children and a future son-in-law and her baby with Down syndrome, and they jumped all over her effort to help salvage the 2008 women's clothing sales, as if that was a bad thing for the struggling economy.

‘“Time calls hers ‘the most astonishing political debut in modern times’ and says the 44-year-old mother of five -- who upset a corrupt GOP party establishment in a place many people don't ever want to visit -- was ‘a one-woman rescue team for the Republican ticket.’

Read more.

Rev. Joseph Lowery: “They’ve {homosexuals} never been enslaved and declared less than human"

Leading conservative pundit Bill Kristol is saluting Barack Obama for inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Kristol’s column in the Dec. 29 edition of the Weekly Standard is titled A President-Elect's Progress: From Rev. Wright to Rev. Warren. Those who have watched Obama’s evolution from the time he was handed the nomination by the DNC and the party’s superdelegates ought not be surprised at Kristol’s support. The minute he became the presumptive nominee, Obama took a dive to the right.

Kristol neglects to mention that although Rev. Wright is described by some as an aggressively progressive preacher and Rev. Warren is beloved among conservative Christians, the two men do have something in common. Rev. Wright’s rant – actually several rants - against Hillary Clinton from the Trinity UCC pulpit betrayed the pastor’s hatred of women, especially a powerful white woman.

Religious conservative Rick Warren’s stance on reproductive rights places him among those males in prominent positions who will never personally have to face the abortion issue, e.g., the pope and his army of priests, but who nevertheless claim the power to deny women the right to make a major decision in consultation with their doctors that affects their own bodies.

In debating the moral equivalence of discrimination against gays and women as civil rights issues, Kristol inadvertently calls into question Obama's selection of both Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery to pray at his inauguration. Kristol quotes Lowery, Obama’s pick to give the benediction: "Homosexuals as a people have never been enslaved because of their sexual orientation," he {Lowery} told the Associated Press. "They may have been scorned; they may have been discriminated against. But they've never been enslaved and declared less than human."

Never been declared less than human? There are obvious gaps in both Kristol’s and Rev. Lowery’s knowledge of history. According to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum:

“The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the state asserted, carried a "degeneracy" that threatened the "disciplined masculinity" of Germany. Denounced as "antisocial parasites" and as "enemies of the state," more than 100,000 men were arrested under a broadly interpreted law against homosexuality. Approximately 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others—perhaps hundreds—were castrated under court order or coercion. Analyses of fragmentary records suggest that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings, and murder.

“In the racist practice of Nazi eugenics, women were valued primarily for their ability to bear children. The state presumed that women homosexuals were still capable of reproducing. Lesbians were not systematically persecuted under Nazi rule, but they nonetheless did suffer the loss of their own gathering places and associations.

“Nazi Germany did not seek to kill all homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Nazi state, through active persecution, attempted to terrorize German homosexuals into sexual and social conformity, leaving thousands dead and shattering the lives of many more.”

It’s beyond the scope of this post to comment on all of the widespread enslavement and horrible abuse endured by gays and women throughout history that continues to this day around the globe.

I’ll conclude with these words by former slave Frederick Douglas that the Obama team in its refusal to take seriously the rights of any group other than African-Americans would do well to ponder: “Until we are all free, we are none free.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Palin Condemns Racist Slurs About Obama; Obama Ignores Sexual Slurs Against Hillary Clinton

According to the AP’s William Yardley, Alaska is checking E-mailed slurs about President-elect Obama. Yardley reports:

“Alaska officials are investigating e-mail messages that included racist jokes about President-elect Barack Obama and were circulated on state government accounts by state employees.”

The article continues:

“Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Gov. Sarah Palin, said Thursday that none of the 10 employees worked in the governor’s office and that to his knowledge no one in the office had received any of the messages, which, he said, Ms. Palin condemns.

‘“They violate state policy — at least that’s the prima facie view of things,’ Mr. McAllister said in a telephone interview. ‘They’re not state business, and obviously they are offensive, and clearly she doesn’t support that. And she does not support racism, and she does not support attacks on the president-elect.’”

Compare the condemnation of the above racist activity by Gov. Palin to the complete lack of response from President-elect Obama to the photo of Jon Favreau widely circulated on the Internet showing Obama’s chief speechwriter and his buddy sexually molesting a cardboard cutout of the newly named secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Also, please take into consideration that Obama has justified inviting a homophobic evangelical Christian pastor to give the invocation at his inauguration by urging us to learn to disagree with one another without being disagreeable.

In ObamaLand, racism is apparently the only form of bigotry considered morally wrong; women, gays, and other minority groups don’t merit equal protection from abusive treatment.

Obama Announces Final Cabinet Picks (video)

In a press conference this afternoon, President-elect Obama announced the final selections for his Cabinet including Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.) as labor secretary, former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as U.S. trade representative and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) as transportation secretary. Obama also named Karen Gordon Mills as his choice to head the Small Business Administration.

Heidi Li posted earlier on Republican Ray LaHood, Obama’s pick as transportation secretary:

‘“But today's announcement of Ray Lahood, the retiring Illinois Republican House member who, says the New York Times, ‘rose to prominence when he presided over the House impeachment vote against President Bill Clinton,’ as the second Republican in Obama's cabinet really takes the cake.

Obama has picked Lahood to serve as Transportation Secretary - Transportation Secretary in an administration that is planning to push a huge spending package disseminating bucks for works on the transport system and one that proclaims it is interested in ‘green’ issues. This is like putting Dick Cheney in charge of energy policy and thinking that we were going to end up with a crackdown on various corrupt practices in energy trading and the oil industry or that suddenly environmental standards regarding the production of ‘green’ cars would be advanced.

‘“The Times also reports that ‘Mr. close to Mr. Obama and Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff.’ In other words, Lahood, another Illinois crony. Well, cronyism also carries on the Bush legacy: remember W.'s efforts to appoint Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court? Or his 2006 recess appointments of Ellen R. Sauerbrey and J. Dorrance Smith?’’

Here's the video of the latest Obama press conference:

Blagojevich Pledges to Fight Charges with his Last Breath (video)

Watch Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich asssert his innocence and leave your comment below.

Obama Doesn’t Get That Other Forms of Discrimination Are as Destructive as Racial Bias

Barack Obama and Pastor Rick Warren. Photo credits: Minn. Public Radio

Barack Obama’s defense of Rick Warren as his choice to give the inaugural invocation reveals the president-elect’s failure to get that other forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual preference, gender, religion, or ethnic background are as destructive as the racial bias that he has most likely experienced firsthand.

The Washington Post reports:

“President-elect Barack Obama yesterday defended his selection of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, saying that he disagrees with the minister's opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage but that there should be room for "dialogue" on such difficult social issues.”

Based on his passive stance toward sexism throughout the campaign and his recent refusal to acknowledge the outrageous behavior of his head speechwriter Jon Favreau toward Hillary Clinton, Obama puts sexism and misogyny in the same category as discrimination against the GLBT community – another of those difficult social issues we should be able to disagree about without being disagreeable.

Religion might also be included among the above prickly social issues. Obama’s Christian bona fides were repeatedly questioned in the 2008 campaign; the Obama camp responded as if being a Muslim was something shameful. It’s possible the selection of evangelical Christian Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation is yet another groveling attempt by Obama to satisfy the religious bigots among the electorate. I continue to wonder when Obama will have the courage and the grace to stand up and declare: “I’m a Christian by choice, but I’m proud of my Muslim heritage.”

Considering Obama’s apparent tolerance of other forms of discrimination and bigotry, one has to wonder how willing he would be to “dialogue” about racial discrimination with say, a few members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pastor Rick Warren Excludes the GLBT Community

David Waters asks an interesting question at On Faith (Washington Post/News Week) today: To Whose God Will Rick Warren Pray? Although he mentions the left’s sense of betrayal by Obama’s selection of an anti-gay, anti-choice pastor to give his inaugural invocation, Waters avoids responding to the heartrending cries of exclusion arising from the GLBT community.

Waters addresses issues of inclusion/exclusion primarily as they pertain to the various religious traditions represented in today’s culture. He writes:

“I think the most interesting question won't be answered until Warren speaks on Jan. 20. To whom (Whom?) will Warren deliver the Inauguration's opening prayer? Will his language be inclusive or exclusive? Will he pray to the sort of generic Creator God mentioned in the Declaration of Independence? Will he pray to the monotheistic and paternalistic God the Father? Or will he, as a conservative Christian pastor, pray in the name of Jesus?

“Does it matter?”

Waters compares Billy Graham’s inclusive inaugural prayers to that of his son Franklin Graham (invocation) and Kirbyjon Caldwell (benediction) who prayed to Jesus at George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001.

Waters continues:

‘“Among the critics was Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that Graham's ‘particularistic and parochial language . . . excluded tens of millions of American Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists from his blessing . . . The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that Bush's America is a Christian nation, and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens.’”

From the public pronouncements Rick Warren has made concerning gay rights, the impression is unavoidable that he considers the GLBT community to be among those non-Christian, but tolerated minorities rather than fully equal citizens.

As a Unitarian-Universalist whose first principle asserts the inherent worth and dignity of every person, I find Warren’s position indefensible.

Washington Post’s Saslow Trivializes Obscene, Sexist Treatment of Hillary Clinton

One of the reasons I left the Democratic Party last summer was the culture of misogyny that revealed itself in the unholy alliance of the party’s leaders and the media during a primary that culminated in a convention rigged to anoint Barack Obama as nominee for the presidency.

Even Howard Dean has since acknowledged the abusive treatment endured by first Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and later Sarah Palin in the general election.

And yet – and yet – just this morning I turn to the Washington Post and read Eli Saslow’s saccharine paean to Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau who recently exposed his own depravity and that of his buddies in a photo first published on Facebook. The photo shows Favreau groping the cardboard former first lady’s breast while a buddy pours beer down her throat.

Here’s how Saslow cleverly dismisses the young Favreau’s behavior:

‘“Now, he {Favreau} has transformed into what one friend called a ‘Washington political force’ -- a minor celebrity with a down payment on a Dupont Circle condo, whose silly Facebook photos with a Hillary Rodham Clinton cutout created what passes for controversy in Obama's so far drama-free transition.”’

Saslow’s noxious attempt to brush Favreau’s misconduct aside doesn’t change the seriousness of the issue that continues to hang over the 2008 presidential election. Civilized, informed Americans are well aware that our nation sets the example on human rights for the rest of the world.

When America’s rampant misogyny, illustrated by a photo of punk Favreau’s disrespectful treatment of our newly named secretary of state, is rocketed around the worldwide Web, we are effectively condoning the abusive treatment of women in other cultures exemplified recently by a news report featuring a 13-year-old Somali girl. The child was brutally raped by three men on her way to visit her grandmother. She turned to the authorities for help and was instead charged with adultery and publicly stoned to death.

The good news regarding Saslow’s typically fawning coverage of anything related to the Obama team is that a good many readers took the time to protest. Below is nikital’s comment that has already been recommended by 10 readers:

nikita1 wrote:
“What the reporter described as an awkward pose was actually Favreau acting out events that often precipitate date rape. His hands is groping her breast. Another is around her neck. And the other man in the photo is pouring beer down her throat. Readers should substitute U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton's face with one of their daughter, wife, sister, or mother. The Washington Post has done a great disservice to its readers by assisting in the effort to rehabilitate the image of a person who is not fit to serve in the White House.
12/18/2008 8:53:52 AM
Recommended (10)”

Another Washington Post reader, jandrejacques, also has no patience for Favreau’s obscene behavior and again several readers approve the comment:

“Favreau should be fired for that photo. It gives substance to a belief to anybody who has been watching that the Obamas are elitists and see several minority groups as inferior, and it will be a worm in the Obama structure that will consume it. More importantly, it gives any foreign entity that SoS-elect Clinton must deal with, reason to wonder if the Obama regime are truly respectful and supportive of Clinton. He has to be fired. Of course, 'zipperhead' Obama hasn't got a clue.
12/18/2008 8:33:24 AM
Recommended (10)”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Watch Interview with Caroline Kennedy in Rochester, NY

Caroline Kennedy visits upstate New York.

Caroline Kennedy has wasted no time since announcing her desire for Hillary Clinton’s seat as a U.S. senator from New York. Although she says she’s not “campaigning” for the soon-to-be vacated seat, she sure sounds like someone running for office.

News 10NBC reports:

“Kennedy is on an Upstate swing, campaigning to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate. She met with the mayor of Syracuse this morning and also plans to stop in Buffalo. Kennedy is seeking the appointment of Gov. David Paterson to fill the open Senate seat once Hillary Clinton is sworn in as Secretary of State.”

Watch the uncut interview with Caroline Kennedy

Obama Dodges Tough Questions as Adroitly as Dubya; Now About Those Flying Shoes…

Both President-elect Obama and President Bush enjoy working out. Photo credits: Weekly Standard

At last! Someone besides me has noticed the similarities between Barack Obama and George W. Bush. In earlier posts, though, I mainly compared the hubris of the inexperienced Obama’s characterization of himself as the potential savior of Washington to Dubya’s “I am Jesus” campaign promises to rid the entire world of corruption.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has noticed a similarity between the post-election behavior patterns of the incoming and outgoing presidents. Milbank begins his Washington Sketch post this morning:

“A month from now, the nation will say farewell to its sports-obsessed president who doesn't like tough questions. And it will replace him with, well, another sports-obsessed president who doesn't like tough questions.

‘“I did not select Arne because he's one of the best basketball players I know,’ President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday, introducing Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan. ‘Although I will say that I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history, and I think that is worth noting.’”

Milbank adds:

“The nominee, one of the half a dozen accomplished basketball players suiting up for Obama's inner circle, made reference to his time as a professional hoopster in Australia.”

But damn those pesky reporters like John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune who wasn’t about to be drawn into “let’s all be pals and talk sports” chitchat with the president-elect and instead insisted on asking a probing question about Rahm Emanuel’s conversations with the luckless Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Milbank reports that in perfect Dubya style, Obama successfully dodged the questions despite repeated attempts by McCormick to get him to deal with the issue.

‘“John, John, let me just cut you off,’ Obama interrupted, ‘because I don't want you to waste your question.’ The president-elect said the ‘facts are going to be released next week’ -- when he, by random coincidence, will be enjoying Christmas vacation in Hawaii -- and ‘it would be inappropriate for me to comment" before then. ‘So, do you have another question?”’

Milbank continues:

‘“There's no denying Obama's team has an impressive starting five: Duncan (6-foot-5), incoming national security adviser James Jones and body man Reggie Love (both 6-foot-4) all played college basketball, while Attorney General-designate Eric Holder and U.N. Ambassador-designate Susan Rice played high school ball. But Obama's response to Blagojevich questions has been decidedly junior varsity. Begging off because of an ongoing investigation? Hiding behind Patrick Fitzgerald's skirt? Warning a reporter not to ‘waste’ a question and asking for an alternative question? All four techniques were popularized by Bush.

“‘We're in the midst of an ongoing investigation, and I will be more than happy to comment further once the investigation is completed’ was President Bush's version.

“‘I would ask for your patience, because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation’ is Obama's.

‘“McCormick's exchange in Chicago yesterday brought to mind Bush's tangle with David Gregory last year when the NBC newsman asked about an Israeli raid in Syria. ‘I'm not going to comment on the matter,’ Bush said. ‘You're welcome to ask another question, if you'd like to, on a different subject,’ the president added.”’

Milbank concludes:

‘“The whole thing might have ended in snores if McCormick hadn't piped up about Blagojevich. After upbraiding the reporter for his first two attempts at a question, Obama dispatched McCormick's third try -- whether there should be a special election to fill Obama's Senate seat -- with a no-comment. ‘I'm going to let the state legislature make a determination,’ he said.

‘“McCormick tried something more to the president-elect's liking. ‘Do you or Duncan have a better jump shot?’ he inquired.

‘“Duncan -- much better,’ Obama replied readily. ‘That one's an easy one.”’

It seems that President-elect Obama can easily dodge tough questions as adroitly as Dubya; hopefully, he’ll never have to dodge flying shoes as our athletically gifted president was forced to do in Baghdad the other day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Caroline Kennedy’s Experience on the Trail Limited to Obama Campaign

Michele Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, and Oprah in the California primary. Photo credits: LA Times

Caroline Kennedy is openly lobbying the appropriate power brokers for Hillary Clinton’s U.S. senate seat in New York. If Gov. Paterson appoints Kennedy, she’ll have two years to learn the ropes before she’s forced to campaign for the seat the hard way in 2010.

It’s my understanding that Kennedy’s experience in campaigning is limited to her appearances, along with other members of the Kennedy clan, on behalf of Barack Obama in 2008. You’ll recall that Kennedy decided to endorse Obama at the urging of her children.

(Note: Not every member of the Kennedy clan supported Obama during the primary; one of Sen. Clinton’s most loyal supporters was Robert Kennedy, Jr., a prominent environmental activist.)

It’s hard to estimate how much good the Kennedys did for Obama, but two contests in the Democratic primary stand out in my memory. The first occurred in Massachusetts where Caroline Kennedy joined both Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Kerry as well as Gov. Deval Patrick in backing Obama.

Hillary Clinton took Massachusetts.

The second contest occurred in California where Maria Shriver, the daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver and the wife of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, teamed up with Oprah and Caroline Kennedy in heavy duty campaigning for Obama. It was deemed good political strategy for the three women to appear onstage together in opposition to Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Clinton won California.

The results of those two Democratic primary contests are probably not sufficient to predict Caroline Kennedy’s ability to campaign for a U.S. senate seat in New York. But it does give one pause.

In the meantime, by simply expressing her desire for Clinton’s soon to be vacated seat, Kennedy has stirred up the media’s interest in her influential family. Liz Robbins at the Caucus (NY Times) in fact provides a detailed portrait of the Kennedy clan’s “long political tentacles.”

Robbins begins:

When Caroline Kennedy made it known that she eagerly wants New York’s United States Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the spotlight burned even brighter on the most famous family in American politics.

“The nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy have extended the family’s reach to both coasts and all forms of public service. And while it has been mostly Kennedy men who have held public office, Ms. Kennedy can look to her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, who was the United States’ ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, or her cousin, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was the first Kennedy woman to hold an elected office, when she served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003.”

For a review of all the tentacles of the Kennedy family’s political influence go here.

Candidate #5 Jesse Jackson, Jr. is No Progressive

Jesse Jackson, Jr. Photo credits:

There are those who argue that if Hillary Clinton could get over the bruises from the rigged Democratic primary and gracefully move forward to become the new administration’s secretary of state, her supporters ought to be able to fall in line.

I’m not there yet.

All it takes to reopen my wounds from the primary is the re-emergence on the national scene of the likes of Jesse Jackson, Jr.

A post the other day by John Nichols that seeks to canonize Jackson, Jr., candidate #5 in the Blagojevich scandal, set me off again:

Nichols writes:

“Jackson was as close as there was to a frontrunner in the competition for a gubernatorial appointment to the seat. He had been endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Defender and other newspapers, as well as Progressive Democrats of America and individual activists who had come to know him as a champion in the struggle for peace and economic and social justice.”

Continuing his accolade to the Illinois congressman who served as the national co-chair of the Obama campaign during the primary, Nichols asserts:

“Since his election to the House in a 1995 special election, Jackson has compiled one of the most consistently progressive and reform-oriented records in the chamber. He has clashed not just with the Bush administration and its economic-royalist allies but with Democrats who have chosen to compromise with those interests. As such, he has cost himself politically. Jackson's stands on principle have made it harder for him to raise money and to attain the powerful positions that are apportioned to those who go along to get along.”

After every boast Nichols makes about Jackson, Jr., I have a flashback to the day after the New Hampshire primary when a grim-faced Jackson angrily lashed out at Hillary Clinton with his egregious racist and sexist charges.

Here’s a news update for John Nichols: misogyny and racism are not the hallmarks of a progressive leader.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama’s Comparison of Himself to Lincoln: “A Certain Kind of Hubris”

Obama with supporters in Springfield, IL on Feb. 10, 2007. Photo credits: Getty Images.

Very early in the Democratic primary, I suggested to a friend afflicted by the euphoria typical of Obama supporters that her candidate simply lacked the experience to be president of the United States. Her answer? He has as much experience as Abraham Lincoln had when he became president.

Never mind the odds of Barack Obama demonstrating comparable character, judgment, and leadership skills to Abraham Lincoln are pretty remote; there is also the reality that today’s world is a much more dangerous and complex place than the world Honest Abe knew back in the 19th Century. We drive cars, for cripe sake, and we’ve got weapons of mass destruction.

In the end, however, euphoria triumphed over common sense or even a modicum of skepticism in the 2008 election and in the midst of a global financial crisis and two wars, Americans elected president the least qualified candidate in the field.

Now President-elect Obama, educated at Columbia and Harvard, continues to encourage his adoring public to associate him with the self-educated Lincoln who studied law in the evenings by firelight.

A few contemporary historians offer a reality check or two.

In a post titled Straw Man? Historians say Obama is no Lincoln, Harris and Burns at Politico write:

‘“In Barack Obama's appearance last month on CBS's ‘60 Minutes,’ the conversation turned to the president-elect's long-time love of Lincoln.

‘“There is a wisdom there,’ Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft,’ and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.’

“Humility? Obama's frequent invocations of Abraham Lincoln — a man enshrined in myth and marble with his own temple on the National Mall — would not at first blush say much about his own instincts for modesty or self-effacement.

‘“And now there are early rumblings of a backlash to Obama's ostentatious embrace of all things Lincoln, with his not-so-subtle invitations to compare the 44th president to the 16th, the ‘Savior of the Union.’

“Simply put, some scholars think the comparisons have gone a bit over the top hat.

“Sean Wilentz, a scholar in American history at Princeton, said many presidents have sought to frame themselves in the historical legacies of illustrious predecessors, but he couldn't find any examples quite so brazen.

‘“Sure, they've looked back to Washington and even, at times, Jackson. Reagan echoed and at times swiped FDR's rhetoric,’ said Wilentz. ‘But there's never been anything like this, and on this scale. Ever.’

‘“Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like ‘a certain kind of hubris.’

‘“It'd be a bit like a basketball player turning up before his first game and saying, ‘I'm kind of modeling myself on Michael Jordan,’ he said. ‘If you can do it, fine. If you're LeBron James, that'll work. But people may make that comparison to your disadvantage.’

“As it happens, Obama may find this an entirely apt comparison.”

‘“I'm LeBron, baby," he told a Chicago Tribune reporter at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. ‘I can play on this level. I got some game.’

“That kind of preening highlights a risk that many presidents have encountered as they gaze in history's mirror.”

Read more.

Review's Findings of Obama Team’s Contacts with Blago on Hold Until Next Week

Note: Below is an update to an earlier article by the AP in which it noted the public will have to wait until next week for details from the Obama Team's internal review, "when few will be paying close attention because of Christmas and Obama's plans to celebrate in Hawaii _ far away from Chicago, the focal point of the federal investigation."

The AP reported today at 5 P.M. EST:

‘“CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement and his aides had ‘no inappropriate discussions,’ a spokesman for the transition office said Monday in disclosing the results of an internal review.

‘“The spokesman, Dan Pfeiffer, said the review itself would be kept confidential at least until the week of Dec. 22 at the request of federal prosecutors ‘in order not to impede their investigation of the governor.’

“Controversy has swirled around the president-elect and his incoming White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, following Blagojevich's arrest last week on charges he schemed to trade Obama's Senate seat for personal gain.

“As governor, Blagojevich has sole authority to appoint a replacement, although fellow Democrats have demanded he refrain from doing so and Illinois lawmakers may consider legislation stripping him of his power.

“State lawmakers also took the first step toward possible impeachment during the day.

‘“In the statement, Pfeiffer said incoming White House counsel Gregory Craig has kept federal prosecutors informed of the internal review ‘in order to ensure our full cooperation with the investigation’ into allegations against the governor.

“Yet the brief statement left several issues uncovered.”

Read more.

“Winter Blasts Into the North Country” (video)

Photo by V. Bergman

The sun is breaking through the cloud cover in St. Paul this morning even though dangerously cold wind chill temps are in the forecast. We’re looking at –25 to –30 degrees.


I drove to church Sunday morning in the rain. It stayed above freezing long enough for me to stop at the supermarket on my way home. Today it’s warm and snug in my apartment as I watch the video “Winter Blasts Into the North Country” and congratulate myself for stocking up with groceries and other necessities ahead of the severe weather.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What’s This? Obama Has A ‘My Pet Goat’ Moment Before He Even Takes Office?

Photo credits: AP

Over at RealClearPolitics, Steve Chapman describes Obama’s “My Pet Goat” moment last Thursday in his response to Pat Fitzgerald’s review of the Blagojevich saga concerning the Illinois governor’s attempts to sell a U.S. senate seat to the highest bidder.

Comparing the reactions of Blagojevich’s fellow Illinois Democrats to Obama’s response to the latest indictment of a high-ranking public official in the Land of Lincoln, Chapman says Obama failed to rise to the occasion:

“The reaction from fellow Illinois Democrats was swift and severe. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn demanded that the governor step aside. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin urged the legislature to call a special election to fill the Senate seat. Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan proposed to ask the Supreme Court to disqualify the governor from carrying out his duties.

‘“But Obama had a ‘My Pet Goat’ moment, freezing up in the face of the shock. ‘I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time,’ he said. ‘It's a sad day for Illinois.’ You'd have thought the Bears had failed to make the playoffs.

‘“That was the first day. The second day he was only slightly less tepid, with his office issuing a statement saying, ‘The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois.’

‘“Would it be ‘difficult’ for Blagojevich to serve the people? Yes, kind of like it was ‘difficult’ for the Titanic to continue its voyage. Understatement is one thing. What Obama exhibited was more like lockjaw.”’

Read more.

Sniffing Out Contacts Between Obama’s Transition Team and Blagojevich

Politico’s Vogel and Martin reported the other day on President-elect Obama’s pledge to conduct an internal investigation of possible contacts between his transition team and Illinois Gov. Blagojevich regarding the governor’s attempt to sell Obama’s senate seat for personal gain.

Vogel and Martin write:

‘“He was elected president on a promise of ‘transparency’ but barely five weeks later, Barack Obama is scrambling to meet his first big test on openness.

“Obama's campaign lawyer Bob Bauer is taking a leading role in conducting what one top aide described as "an internal review" stopping short of a full-blown investigation.

“The goal is simple and urgent: find who talked with disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and when - and precisely what they said.

“But it's also loaded with hazards. They need to make sure they meet Obama's vow to release findings "in a few days." More importantly, they need to make sure they don't miss something that could come back to bite them later.

“In trying to meet the first rule of Washington scandal-management – get the facts out on your own terms, and fast – Obama may have promised something he’ll later regret, one expert warned.

‘“What they’re doing is either setting themselves up for inconsistencies, or creating a cache of evidence that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It never helps when you dig up the dirt in your own yard and you find stuff,’ said Stan Brand, a top Washington defense lawyer.”’

Read More:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Can a Leader Spawned in Chicago Politics Be Expected to Clean up Washington?

“Obama has profited greatly from his careful climb through Chicago politics. But there is an old saying that in politics nothing is free -- there is just some question about when you pay the price. Obama is paying it now.” Michael Barone, RealClearPolitics.

It’s common knowledge that Barack Obama and most of the members of his inner circle from Chicago have long maintained ties with the corrupt Daley political machine. Nevertheless, Obama supporters continue to present their candidate as the harbinger of the new politics galloping into Washington to save our national government from corruption.

In covering the Blagojevich scandal, Michael Barone at Real Clear Politics this morning argues that “Chicago Politics Stains Obama.”

Comparing Gov. Blagojevich’s process of filling Obama’s senate seat in Illinois to that followed in 1960 by Gov. Foster Furcolo in filling JFK’s senate seat in Massachussetts, Barone finds both similarities and differences:

“That was a different tableau from the one we have seen unfold in Chicago this past week. Furcolo was an intelligent man, disappointed to have failed to win the state's other Senate seat and destined not to win elective office again. But he knew that it would not pay to buck the Kennedys.

“Rod Blagojevich, the governor who under Illinois statute has the power to appoint a senator to fill out the remaining two years of Barack Obama's Senate term, is made of different stuff. He was arrested last Tuesday, and the U.S. attorney filed a criminal complaint and made public tapes of Blagojevich seeking personal favors in return for the Senate seat.”

Barone analyzes the potential effect of the Blagojevich scandal on Obama’s reputation prior to his inauguration:

“He {Obama} has appeared to avoid all but small mistakes, and his theme of unifying the nation -- muted perhaps necessarily in the adversary environment of the campaign -- has come forth loud and clear.

“From all this the Blagojevich scandal is an unwanted distraction. It is a reminder that, for all his inspirational talk of hope and change, Obama, like Blagojevich, are both products of Chicago Democratic politics, which is capable of producing leaders both sublime and sordid.

“Obama has not always avoided the latter. For 20 years he attended the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, now thrown under the bus, and for more than a decade engaged in mutually beneficial exchanges political and financial with the political fixer Tony Rezko, now in federal custody.

“Blagojevich, never a close political ally, has now been thrown under the bus, too, and seems likely to share Rezko's fate. Obama fans can point out, truthfully, that other revered presidents had seamy associates and made common cause on their way up with men who turned out to be scoundrels. Franklin Roosevelt happily did business with Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly, though warned that he was skimming off money from federal contracts. John Kennedy no more thought to deny a request from the Mayor Daley of his day than Obama has thought to buck the Mayor Daley of his.

“But as Kennedy supposedly said of a redolent Massachusetts politician, "Sometimes party loyalty asks too much." The man in question was the Democratic nominee for governor and was not elected. Until Patrick Fitzgerald released his tapes, Barack Obama never said the same of Rod Blagojevich.

“Obama has profited greatly from his careful climb through Chicago politics. But there is an old saying that in politics nothing is free -- there is just some question about when you pay the price. Obama is paying it now.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

“Is mybarackobama now the new name for the Democratic Party?”

The above is a mailing from former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe inviting Obama supporters to gather this weekend for "Change is Coming Events." (originally posted at Heidi Li's Potpourri.)

I’ve said it before: The Onion video showing bereft Obama supporters with nothing to do after their idol was elected president is more an accurate portrayal of reality than satire.

Not to worry.

Political Intelligence (Boston Globe) reports:

“One of the big questions following Barack Obama's victory last month was how engaged his supporters would continue to be once the initial euphoria wore off. If this weekend is any indication, they're showing no signs of letting up.

‘“Obama supporters will gather at more than 4,200 ‘Change is Coming’ events this weekend to discuss where to take the movement from here, according to his campaign. That's nearly three times the number of events that Obama aides had been expecting. More than 200 meetings are scheduled for tonight, with thousands more tomorrow and Sunday.

‘“Obama's website quotes Jan Biederman from Cleveland: ‘The goals of our get-together will be multi-fold, not the least of which will be to keep the grass-roots momentum going ... I plan to facilitate a discussion on what we can do locally to help bring about the change we all want, and not just wait for Washington.”’

This is more evidence the Obama Administration intends to follow the misguided path of its predecessor. During his eight years in office, George W. Bush never learned the difference between campaigning and governing; Dubya positioned Karl Rove, his chief campaign strategist, in a nearby office in the White House. Likewise, Obama is taking his top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, to Washington with him.

But the Obama “movement” is going a step or two further than Bush. A few days ago Heidi Li Feldman posted a mailing from the Obama team inviting supporters to participate in the above “Change is Coming” House Meetings. Feldman, a Georgetown University law professor, wrote:

‘“What IS this? It reads like some sort of tent-revival/teeny-bopper/new-age infotainment ad. Why is mybarackobama now the the new name for the Democratic Party? Is Obama for America officially operating with 2012 in mind, as I have suggested previously, hence we are receiving messages from David Plouffe in his capacity as ‘Campaign Manager, Obama for America?’

“In the United States of America, political parties do not have Constitutional status. They are not to be conflated with the government, which, in contrast to parliamentary systems, is not in the possession of the prevailing party. And neither the head of any political party nor the President of the United States is to be conflated with government either - that would be a totalitarian regime.

“President-elect Obama must come to realize that these messages coming from his campaign manager, using the resources of the debt-ridden DNC, are unbecoming to say the least. As a Democrat, they make me cringe. I have no problem with patriotism; I have no problem with politicians building their base. But as a Democrat and a democrat, I shy away from messages that sound cultish or invoke the style of Sunday morning TV preachers to ‘encourage’ everybody to ‘plan the next steps for this movement.’ What movement? Mr. Obama: you are the President now. Your job is not to lead a movement, if it ever was. Your job is to lead the country, the entire country, not just those who supported you or voted you. You are the chief executive officer of the United States of America. Form your cabinet, staff the executive branch, and lead the country. In the meantime, please note, it is, again to say the least, unseemly to have your Campaign Manager sending messages with a graphic that makes no mention of the United States but just continues to refer to ‘CHANGE’ and displays your personal symbol. We need a president, not a guru.

“Compare the above with Reverend Moon's organizational materials to catch the similarities in style, if not content. Examples here.”

Feldman is right, of course; we do need a president, not a guru, but it’s a guru, we’ve got. In these perilous times, we are about to inaugurate the most inexperienced president-elect in contemporary history. In the meantime, we are asked to support the “movement” that swept Obama into office on vague promises of hope and change.

Pardon me if I remain a bit skeptical.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chicago: Corruption Capital of the United States

Prompted by the current Blagojevich scandal, the Christian Science Monitor provides an excellent summary of how corruption has wound through Illinois politics in recent decades.

Staff writer Amanda Paulson writes:


“In the annals of corrupt Illinois politicians, Gov. Rod Blagojevich may go down as one of the most brazen. But he has plenty of company.

“Three of the state’s seven previous governors have been convicted and served time. Since 1971, by one count, 31 Chicago aldermen and some 1,000 public officials and businessmen have been convicted.

‘“We’re the corruption capital of the United States,’ says Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a former Chicago alderman, who maintains that state corruption count. ‘We have more [corruption] even than New Jersey and Louisiana, which are our competitors.”’

Read more:

Blagojevich Scandal Dominates Obama’s News Conference

Introduced by President-elect Obama today as Health and Human Services Secretary-designate, Tom Daschle endorsed Obama last February during the Democratic primary. Photo credits:

Kate Seelye at the Caucus (NY Times) blogged Obama’s presser this morning when he introduced former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary-designate in Chicago.

At the top of her post, Seelye writes:

“Bottom Line 11:59 a.m. Mr. Obama was certainly more assertive in his condemnation of the Illinois scandal than he had been a couple of days ago, and he stated flatly that he had no involvement with the selling of his Senate seat.

“The U.S. attorney had also said there was no indication that Mr. Obama was in any way involved. But Mr. Obama did note that his staff was still gathering facts about whether anyone on his team might have been involved, leaving the door open that some inconvenient news could emerge. It seems unlikely that Mr. Obama’s statements today will put these questions to rest.

“And poor Mr. Daschle! Like Al Gore on Monday, Mr. Obama’s co-stars were overlooked as reporters questioned Mr. Obama about the scandal. Still, in the health-care question, Mr. Obama indicated quite clearly that the Bush tax cuts may not be rolled back as fast as he had promised, if at all. In the end, of course, dealing with health care and the rest of the economic emergency in this country will have a more lasting effect on his presidency than the current scandal in his home state.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Corruption in the Land of Lincoln: Obama’s Reformist Image Tarnished

From left: Rod Blagojevich, Barack Obama and Richard M. Daley. Photo credits: John Gress/Reuters

Google the name of any major operative from the Obama campaign now serving on his transition team with the phrase, “Daley machine politics in Chicago,” and you’ll see that Obama’s carefully crafted reformist image was already tainted by the city he calls home before the indictment this week of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I can name three members of Obama’s inner circle right off the top of my head who have long-time Daley connections: Michele Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and David Axelrod.

Last March, Ben Joravsky wrote in the Washington Independent: “Obama settled in Chicago a couple of years after {Mayor Harold} Washington died and this is the political universe he knows. His wife, Michelle Obama, used to work for the Daley administration. His campaign strategist, David Axelrod, ran some of Daley’s campaigns. Many of Obama’s closest advisers, like Valerie B. Jarrett, are Daley appointees and insiders — it would be hard to find big players in Chicago who aren’t. And last year, Obama mustered his oratorical powers to endorse Daley with a speech so reverential it made some of the senator’s fans cringe in embarrassment.”

Obama’s ties to the old politics of Chicago were never fully vetted by the media who continue to be under his spell. So it’s in the category of better late than never that Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi actually raises an eyebrow over the latest revelation of corruption in the Land of Lincoln.

Calabresi writes:

“On more than one occasion during his stunning press conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald bluntly said he has found no evidence of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama in the tangled, tawdry scheme that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly cooked up to sell Obama's now vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. But for politicians it's never good news when a top-notch prosecutor has to go out of his way to distance you from a front-page scandal. And indeed, there are enough connections between the worlds of Blagojevich and Obama that the whole thing has the potential to grow beyond a colorful Chicago tale of corruption to entangle members of the Presidential transition team, to test Obama's carefully cultivated reformist image and to distract the President-elect just as he is preparing to take office.”

Read more:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Michael Savage Speaks Out on America’s Sadomasochistic Women

Michael Savage

Media Matters for America hit my inbox yesterday, Monday, Dec. 8 with this jarring headline:

Savage: "[A]ny heterosexual woman today over the age of 25 who grew up in America is basically a dominatrix"

Just to be sure I knew what Savage was talking about I looked up ‘dominatrix’ in a handy online dictionary. Here’s what I found:

dom·i·na·trix [ dòmmə náytriks ] (plural dom·i·na·tri·ces, noun

Definition: dominant woman sadomasochist: a dominant woman partner in a sadomasochistic relationship

Lauryn Bruck at Media Matters for America reports in detail:

‘“During the December 4 broadcast of The Savage Nation, host Michael Savage discussed a New York Post article that reported allegations that ‘[a]n attorney at one of New York City's most prestigious law firms -- who had a secret passion for S&M -- was shot to death by a rival for the affections of a brilliant Ivy League stunner who moonlights as a dominatrix.’ Savage said: ‘When I was a kid, we didn't need to go to a dominatrix; all we had to do is argue with our mothers." Savage later said: ‘I don't understand that part of it. I truly don't understand it because any heterosexual woman today over the age of 25 who grew up in America is basically a dominatrix. You ask any heterosexual guy. Within a short period of time -- what do you think it's going to last? Ehhh -- 90 days and after that you're living with a dominatrix anyway, so what's the difference?’”

“Savage continued:

“Why do they have to go to a professional? What does a professional dominatrix do that an ordinary woman doesn't do in America today? Half the women look like post-op transvestites to begin with, trying to look like they're gay or keeping up with the mores of the society. You ever see what they look like? They thin themselves down, they're on some kind of diet pill. The lipstick looks like it was applied by, what's her name, Joan Rivers when she was high. They all have a mouth on them, and the guy is, like, pushed into the background. It's any wonder I'm in talk radio.

“Talk Radio Network, which syndicates Savage's show, claims that Savage is heard on more than 350 radio stations. The Savage Nation reaches at least 8.25 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it one of the most listened-to talk radio shows in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show.

“From the December 4 broadcast of Talk Radio Network's The Savage Nation:

‘“SAVAGE: ‘Lawyer slain by S&M madman obsessed with victim's whip mistress girlfriend.’ That's not a bad story. ‘An attorney at one of New York City's most prestigious law firms -- who had a secret passion for S&M -- was shot to death by a rival for the affections of a brilliant Ivy League stunner who moonlights as a dominatrix.’ Where did this all come from, a dominatrix? When did that -- when did that come up in America, dominatrix? I mean, I could say a few words about it. When I was a kid, we didn't need to go to a dominatrix; all we had to do is argue with our mothers.”’

“SAVAGE: Then we got into the dominatrix issue. I don't understand that part of it. I truly don't understand it because any heterosexual woman today over the age of 25 who grew up in America is basically a dominatrix. You ask any heterosexual guy. Within a short period of time -- what do you think it's going to last? Ehhh -- 90 days and after that you're living with a dominatrix anyway, so what's the difference? Why do they have to go to a professional? What does a professional dominatrix do that an ordinary woman doesn't do in America today? Half the women look like post-op transvestites to begin with, trying to look like they're gay or keeping up with the mores of the society. You ever see what they look like? They thin themselves down, they're on some kind of diet pill. The lipstick looks like it was applied by, what's her name, Joan Rivers when she was high. They all have a mouth on them, and the guy is, like, pushed into the background. It's any wonder I'm in talk radio. The safest place for a man to be today is in talk radio and listening to it.”

With creeps like Savage speaking to a radio audience of millions, one has to wonder if there’s a safe place for a woman anywhere in today’s culture.